Recognize anyone in this lineup? ***
It’s that time of year again. No, you did not forget your significant other’s birthday. It’s more important than that. 400+ baseball writers choose ball players to enter Baseball’s Hall of Fame. It is not easy to gain entrance. Like Sally Field, they have to like you…really like you. 75% of the writers have to put your name on a ballot. Less than that, you will have to wait until next year’s voting, unless you get less than 5% of the vote. If so, you don’t another try. There were 34 candidates for admission this year. Only 3 of them got a high enough percentage of votes (75%) to be placed in the Hall. They were:
Jeff Bagwell (86.2%). He could get on base (3,843 times by hit, walk, or HBP) and hit for power (969 extra base hits). He produced a ton of runs (over 1,500 runs scored and over 1,500 driven in). And then there was his performance in 1994. He was the National League’s MVP, won a Gold Glove for his fielding, led the league in runs scored, runs batted in, total bases, and had a batting average of .368.
Tim Raines (86.0%). He got on base by hits and walks more often than Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente or Tony Gwynn (3,935 times). He stole 808 bases (5th best all time). He had 70 or more 6 consecutive seasons, 30 or more a dozen consecutive times. His percentage of successful stolen base attempts was better than Rickey Henderson (85% to 81%) –the finest lead off hitter of all time.
Ivan Rodriguez (76.0%). As a catcher, he was extremely durable (he played more games than any catcher in history: 2,543), and excelled on offence (the most hits by any catcher: 2,844), and defense (he won 13 Gold Gloves). He and Johnny Bench are the only catchers elected to the Hall of Fame on their first ballot.
Some players came very close to gaining entrance: Trevor Hoffman (74%) and Vladimir Guerrero (71.7%). Hoffman missed by 5 votes; Guerrero by 15 votes. Edgar Martinez got 58.6% of the vote. He might become the first designated hitter in the Hall. Mike Mussina got 51.8% of the votes in his first year of being eligible.
PEDs (performance enhancing drugs) continue to play a significant part in some players’ futures. Roger Clemens (54.1%) and Barry Bonds (53.8%) got more votes than in their previous four efforts. Will they continue to make progress in spite of voters’ feelings about drug use? Manny Ramirez, in his first year on the ballot, got 23.8% of the vote. He was a fine hitter, but an indifferent fielder who failed 2 drug tests. He’s got a steep climb ahead of him.
And, as usual, some players failed to get 5% of the vote. They will not be on another ballot. One of them, Jorge Posada, got only 3.8% of the vote and will disappear. It was thought he would get enough support to make more attempts at inclusion. It was not to be.
And it does not get easier. In 2018, Chipper Jones and Jim Thome will be on the ballot. In 2019, Mariano Rivera will arrive. In 2020, Derek Jeter will enter the picture. Getting into the Hall is not easy. Unless you accumulate 3,000 hits, 600 home runs, or 300 wins without medicinal assistance.
*** = These men are the first 5 baseball players voted into the Hall of Fame (in 1939): Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson.